The rapper, actor and podcast host unpacks the chemistry between him and his co-hosts and shares details about his upcoming scripted comedy, which is based on his life as an artist

By Diane J. Cho
May 11, 2021 04:20 PM
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Dumbfoundead
Credit: Sandy Kim

While deep in the throws of the pandemic, there was one place where Asian Americans flocked to for laughs, tears and moral support. Fun with Dumb may not have intended to become a place where many Asian artists go to spill their hearts to creator and host Jon Park, professionally known as Dumbfoundead, but as the podcast grew, so did discussions around ramen vs. ramyun and protecting our Asian elders.

Stepping up to the mic in Dumbfoundead's studio has become a rite of passage for those who have made a huge impact on pop culture, whether it's with food icon Roy Choi or porn superstar Asa Akira. Dumbfounded also chops it up with up-and-coming artists, like rapper Ted Park, and renowned creatives, like photographer Sandy Kim.

PEOPLE spoke to Dumbfoundead about the origins of the pod, what it's like to have your close friends as co-hosts and what the pod hopes to become in the future. He also shares details about his upcoming comedy series that was recently bought by Peacock and when fans can expect to watch.

PEOPLE: What inspired you to start Fun with Dumb?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: Over the years I've built a large network of amazing friends who do incredible things, whether it's in the arts or business. I thought it'd be cool to dig into conversations I've had with them in private, but do it in a podcast form. Many of the guests happened to be Asian American, so it slowly started forming into a theme of Asian Americans who do cool s---.

Once the pandemic hit, I've had more of my close friends on because it was harder to get guests to come in. We've been able to have a wide range of conversations — some casual and some serious — while showcasing how Asian people just talk and chill. I love listening to podcasts and, on top of music and all the other projects I have going on, I wanted to use the pod as an opportunity to show who I am beyond just being a rapper.

PEOPLE: Having reoccurring co-hosts Rick Lee (known professionally as Lyricks) and Rekstizzy has given insight into what Asian male friendships are really like, which you don't normally see. What have you gotten out of being more vulnerable with your co-hosts and how has your audience reacted to it?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: I really appreciate you saying that because, honestly, that's the one thing that really does differentiate our pod from others. The way we talk to each other is literally how we would talk to each other normally. It's interesting because all of us are older. We are aging artists in a very youth-driven industry, so we have this vibe of being able to laugh at ourselves and talk about the things that are rough for us. We're all in different stages of our careers as well, so I think our audience loves that. It's what keeps people coming back.

PEOPLE: What do you think Rick brings to the pod?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: Rick is the total opposite of me. He really grew up very conservative and Christian, but now he's in L.A. and he struggles with this other side of himself. He's very intelligent and he really knows how to bounce off thoughts and ideas with me so he's a great co-host in that way. Then there's Rek, who is completely different from us, too. I don't know how to pinpoint what the defining characteristics are between us, but it's so interesting how we're so damn different, but it works.

PEOPLE: The chemistry is there and it's really entertaining to see how you all handle talking about different topics.

DUMDFOUNDEAD: Yeah, definitely. I think the one cool thing about us three is that we're very Asian. We're very Korean, but we're also outsiders in our own community so we can bring that perspective to conversations. We've been weirdos our whole lives, in the same way Issa Rae or Donald Glover connect to their own communities. We have that common experience and we speak to that.

PEOPLE: There are things that, even in friend groups, are hard to talk about — politics and religion is a big one, too. You guys don't really shy away from those topics. Is there anything that's off-limits?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: It's really no holds bar. It's funny and I really don't care. I'm down to talk about anything. Rek is a wild guy and will say some wild s---, but there are times where he doesn't want to go into certain things, which I always find fascinating. Rick was like that for a while too, but there's nothing off-limits in my opinion.

Dumbfoundead
Credit: Sandy Kim

That's also gotten me into trouble with my real relationships at times because people will tell me to turn it off. Everything isn't content. It's not a bit. It's not entertainment. Those are the things I'm working on in my real life where I need to be able to be Jon Park as opposed to Dumbfoundead. It's hard because when you're in pod mode, you just keep going. You're willing to share more.

PEOPLE: How have listeners responded to Steffie Baik as a reoccuring co-host?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: People love the addition, especially the women listeners. Steffie balances things a bit because me, Rek and Rick bring a lot of male energy. The pod world can also be very toxic and women can get the bulk of the negative comments, which makes me want to put more women on the show. I think the fans may think they're doing us a service by hyping us up and putting down the women but that's not the energy I want to invite into my viewership or listeners. Having Steffie on is great and keeps us in check, too. It's nice to have different perspectives and I love the energy that comes with having a more inclusive environment.

PEOPLE: What's your favorite episode so far and why?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: My favorite episode was the Bobby Lee and Bobby Hundreds episode. The conversation we had was such a real-ass conversation with real feelings and concerns that we have within the Asian community, as far as entertainers go. Also, talking about the pettiness within our own community was so real because some Asian people hate other Asian people in the industry. I try to bring those topics to the table because it shows that we also have things that bug us and we don't have to hold back. The whole essence of that conversation was really honest and I love that.

PEOPLE: When it comes to discussing current events and social justice issues, like Stop Asian Hate and Black Lives Matter, is it important to you to make sure that you talk about those topics? What's been the hardest part about navigating those discussions?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: It's very important, but I will also say that I can only speak to it at the level that I am capable of doing so. There was a time where I was criticizing people about the way they were speaking out about social justice issues, but I realized that there's no right way to be active and everyone's learning. I stopped doing that. I stopped being judgmental and now when I speak about it, I try to only speak to the capacity that I can.

That's the whole idea behind my pod. There's moments of ignorance, but it's okay. I try to lean into that to let people know that I don't know everything. That's why I try to take callers and listen to people more than anything. The pod has really taught me to listen. For a while, I just stuck to talking and I loved the sound of my own voice and what I had to say. The pod has really opened up this side of me that I didn't have before, which was being a listener.

PEOPLE: You have your hand in so many different projects in so many different areas of the industry right now. What's the one thing you see yourself doing consistently in the future?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: I've been working on a TV show that I've been developing for over two years now that Peacock has bought. It's literally about some of the things we've talked about with the pod. It's about an artist aging out of a youth-driven industry, and figuring out who he is if he isn't Dumbfoundead, or this artist persona. I'm really passionate about it because I've discovered a lot about who I am as I've been developing the show. It's art imitating life and life imitating art.

It's been an interesting journey and I just want to see it made. I want to be able to really tell my story through this TV show, which is so personal. A lot of my family is in it and a lot of my relationships with other artists that I knew as they came up are in it, too. One amazing thing about the show is that you get to see other Asian famous people play themselves, as opposed to playing a character. It's going to show what it's like to be a working-class artist.

PEOPLE: When can we expect to start watching?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: Hopefully sooner than later. They have to greenlight it. It's written but we haven't shot it yet.

It's been interesting because, as an independent musician, I can make a song right now and if I wanted to put it out tomorrow, I could. But with TV and movies, there are a lot of gatekeepers. I've learned the frustrations that come with this process and overall learned a lot about working with co-writers and producers. I think now, if I go into a room, I can pitch something and really kill it.

PEOPLE: With the podcast, music, stand-up comedy and a TV series on the way, what direction do you see your career going?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: I love doing everything. I love doing standup. I love hosting. I love acting. I love doing music. At first, people always tell you things like, "Oh yeah, you're a jack of all trades, a master of none." But honestly, I love doing everything, and I don't think things have to be one way or the other. We see so many multi-hyphenates in this generation, and I feel like that's just the wave. I encourage people to try out different things throughout different periods of your life. That's what my show is really about. You're not going to be one thing for the rest of your life.

PEOPLE: Who's your dream guest for the pod?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: David Choe, the artist, because he's had so many different lives. He's one of my favorite Korean artists and the dude — he's just one of those guys who has lived ... like really lived. He's out there and fearless. Having him on the pod would be very interesting.

PEOPLE: What do you hope for the future of Fun with Dumb?

DUMBFOUNDEAD: I want to grow the audience to continue to show some of the things we talked about, like the dynamics of the friendships I have. There's something special there. I think you see it and I really believe in it. I want to give this really honest look at Asian American ownership and the boldness in the way we talk. These are real Asian Americans talking about real things. No performative s---.